It’s well known that veterans of war are resilient, adaptable and constantly looking to make a bad situation better. In others words, just about everything the modern entrepreneur needs to survive their first major business crisis. That a start up business or franchise will encounter crisis is almost a certainty in this modern day age. That the business will survive and endure is much less a certainty. Whether it is a public relations nightmare, a supply chain disaster, loss of an investor or a failure of a product launch to gain traction the first crisis a business encounters stands to be its last without proper leadership. For a guiding light on how to prepare and handle for such crisis one needs but look to the military community for examples. The military prepares, encounters and overcomes obstacles that the civilian world would deem unimaginable. By taking a few key lessons from this community we can learn how to tackle a crisis like a veteran.
Address the Crisis Before it Occurs
There is no worse time for a Marine’s weapon to jam than in the middle of a firefight. Certainly it’s inconvenient while training on the range and the consequences are higher were it to jam during the middle of a rifle qualification course. However, to have the weapon jam in the middle of a firefight for one’s life puts a paramount value on preparing for the worst. Fortunately, the military has already considered it. When the standard M-16 variant weapon jams the Marine is taught to tap the forward assist, rack another round, and bang out the next shot. Or as the Marines know it this is the immediate action drill of tap, rack, bang.
One might wonder what that has to do with business, but consider that the average Marine has practiced tap, rack, bang countless times before ever entering combat. As many Marines will testify when their weapon actually did jam in a firefight they completed the immediate action drill without thinking. The Marines know a jammed weapon is a likely crisis to encounter in combat and they have addressed it long before it occurs.
So what’s the crisis most likely to face your new business? More importantly, have you addressed long before it occurs? The military accepts the inevitability of crisis and this is precisely what makes the average veteran well suited to handle it. Have you addressed staffing redundancy plans in case of mass turnover or something as simple as a mass outbreak of the common flu? Have you prepared for the loss of an investor or were you assuming every investor would be present for life? Did it ever occur to you that your supplier would let you down during your business’ busiest season? The truth is that crisis is inevitable and some planning is always better than none. If you want to handle a major business crisis like a pro then take notes from the military and address the crisis before it ever occurs.
Get Everyone Involved and Communicate
Shoot, move and communicate would be how the military would describe you win a firefight. That’s not have one or two persons fire back. That’s not have everyone stay put and do nothing. It’s certainly not have everyone fail to communicate and remain silent. Nothing bread panic amongst employees during a crisis like a lack of information, direction and purpose. Each military unit has appointed leadership down to the squad and fireteam level. What these leaders instantly do in a crisis is to get everyone involved and start communicating the plan of action. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see the entire squad shooting back except for the leader. The leader is organizing and communicating the action and were he locked into the fight he might miss his purpose.
New businesses will go where their leaders take it and nowhere else. It is the leader’s responsibility to gather the team together and assess the situation. This is the first step of getting everyone involved. Too often leaders will attempt to assess the crisis first before gathering the key facts from the troops on the ground. Once this information is assessed then it is time to get every team member a task to be part of the action. Even if it is reiterating the importance of doing their previously assigned task well, every team member wants to be a part of the solution in a crisis.
Finally, the leader has to communicate regularly not only with the employees but with all the key stakeholders. That’s investors, supporters and yes, family members. More than just communicate directions to their Marines in combat, the small unit leader can be seen on the radio communicating the situation to higher ups. Often times, the solution comes from this view a few more thousand feet up in the air. So when the first major crisis hits your business take notes from those whose sole goal is to bring everyone out alive. Get everyone involved early and communicate in every direction.
Drop the Optimism
Famed Marine General and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis once said, “You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world it’s going to be bad.” While he was speaking to leaders in combat the same is true in business. Markets have a certain scientific quality about them. Gravity will act no matter much you wish you were not falling and markets will respond whether you believe the direction they are trending. When a crisis hits your business a leader must be willing to embrace the brutal facts. This includes mistakes made by the leader!
If the data tells you your supply is going to run out before you can meet the demand nothing will stretch that out. If the books tell you that you are going to run a loss of $10,000 a month without an increase in revenue one can’t complain when three months later you are $30k in the hole. Confidence and resilience in the face of adversity is not the same thing as optimism. Confidence takes in the brutal facts and gives you the courage to move forward. Resilience accepts what just happened to your business as a reality and then allows you to get back up and charge forward. In a time of crisis it’s time to trade optimism for practical resilience and confidence to move forward and attack when all seems lost.
Why Veterans Excel in Business
If crisis in business is inevitable and veterans are well suited to handle crisis, that likely explains why veterans often excel in the business world. In fact, modern franchises are so confident that veterans are prepared for what may come they offer them steep discounts to take on new franchises. That’s discounts on franchise fees, royalties and in some cases the franchises will even supply the veteran with brand new start up equipment. Why? Because the preponderance of evidence tells the franchise that the veteran will be good stewards of this investment. The evidence tells them that when first major crisis comes, and it will, the veteran will not fold.
So there you have it, if you need to survive your first major business crisis just look to the veteran community and emulate. They address the crisis before it occurs. They get everyone involved early and the communicate. Finally, they drop the optimism and exchange it for resolved confidence and resiliency by accepting what has happened and marking the path forward. If you’re a veteran who can relate, then you should be examining your own franchise opportunities right now. You’ve got the skill set and as mentioned, the franchise industry has made a strategic bet on you. Find your opportunity now and lead the way into a future without precedent for yourself.